I hope you are all looking forward to a few days off with the family over Christmas, it has been a very busy year for many of us! However it is also an opportunity to spend some time working “On” your business and putting clear plans in place for 2018 to develop your business further.

Earlier this year I read Will it make the boat go faster? By Ben Hunt-Davis and Harriet Beveridge. For anyone who hasn't read the book, it focuses on how the GB Men’s Rowing Eight won gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 by applying the simple question, "Will it make the boat go faster?" to every decision the team had to make.

The culmination of this performance strategy was a gold medal and the book, which focuses on the same model and applies to life and business.

So what will make your boat go faster in 2018?

Ben and Harriet's recommendations chimed with one of my mantras: you must take time out to stop, step back and reflect. Whether in life, sport or business, you should be aiming to:
1. Keep it simple stupid! (K.I.S.S.)
2. Be clear on your vision.
3. Be willing to change – as your behaviours drives others behaviours around you – you create the environment!
4. Work to a plan.
5. Have a trusted support network to share your vision, plans and ideas.
6. Talk - share your results, challenges and disappointments regularly.
7. Ensure you have someone to be accountable too – this makes a huge difference.
8. Also have someone as a sounding board and even as a safety net at times.
9. Regularly measure, review, learn, adapt and try new ways.
10. Finally keep focusing and working on securing these processes.

There are no short cuts to success, but by sticking to these principles throughout the highs and lows, you will succeed over time. My biggest learning in business has been; not spending all my time chasing those big prospective clients or large revenue contracts, they may never land! Instead, focusing on what makes the most profit/return and what distinguishes us from the competition.

Therefore be clear about what to sell , have a plan to focus your activities and have a marketing budget (at least 10% of your turnover), to target those prospective customers for those high margin products and services . But don’t forget to look after your existing customers relationships too! There’s probably a lot of extra business you can harvest from your existing customer base . So keep in touch with them and don't assume your customers know what you sell!

Reflect on yourself as an individual and take that hard look in the mirror!
It's easy to reflect and critique others, right? But what about yourself? The most difficult stage of reflection is critically examining your own behaviours and habits. There may be harsh realities that you need to face, but growing a successful business is about creating a culture and belief around you and leading from the front and by example.

Sounds easy?
Great! If you're in that minority of people who find introspection and business development easy, let's meet, as I'd love to know your secrets! For most people, this is really tricky. It's almost impossible to achieve your dreams on your own and I continually hear comments on how owning a business can be a very lonely place.

Your turn!
With this in mind, why don't you start your reflection now? Not tomorrow, not in ten minutes time: now! Below, I've listed a few questions which might help you to kick-start your reflection whilst looking towards 2018. If you're comfortable in sharing, just pop your answers and message me at peterfleming@businessdoctors.co.uk .
Don't worry about the formalities, just get your thoughts down and press send (all messages will remain confidential).
Alternatively, answer the questions and share them with your own support network. Whatever way you want to approach it, the important thing is just to get it done!

Reflective questions

1. What have you read, listened too, watched, attended or whom has inspired you recently? Helping you change your behaviours and habits?
2. Has this resulted in you becoming more structured, effective and efficient in your own business or area of expertise?
3. On reflection, did this help short term but you now have slipped back to where you were before?
4. Have you recognised any clear gaps or weaknesses in your ability to delivering your own vision?
5. Or where have you found that external support you needed to get ahead? Maybe you’ve struggled to find someone to complement your own skills?
6. What would be the ideal environment to help you achieve your aspirations?

What's in it for me (Peter)?

I'm a firm believer in collaborating and partnering with like-minded business people who I can help but also reward me to achieve my vision. I recognise that I can't be good at everything, so I surround myself with people who can help me fill those gaps where I’m weaker. This is partnership model that works for most other businesses too.

"The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” , - Aristotle

So, in an effort to promote collaboration, I am asking these questions to identify business owners who might work well together, willingly share stories, successes, failures and ideas, and learn from others in similar situations (peer to peer). Collectively we could improve ourselves, our businesses and work-life balance in unison! One example was last month’s Budget, Brexit and Business update , working lunch which we held in Carlisle which we had a lot of positive feedback from. I’m planning 3 further business challenge themed sessions during 2018 so if you’re interested, please get in touch.

If you are looking to review or grow your business even in these turbulent times, Business Doctors Cumbria offers an initial free business health check , and can help you to establish a clear vision to start working on the steps to fulfil your aspirations. For further information, please contact Peter Fleming 0845 163 1490 or 07966 686112 or mail peterfleming@businessdoctors.co.uk .